Posts Tagged 'back to school'

A Back to School Image

School_bag_backpackBy Peggy Wuenstel

The day we broke camp near the end of our Colorado vacation, I glanced at the campsite of our neighbors, a large extended family that had arrived late in the evening the night before, and were all still asleep in their assorted tents and campers. As we moved quietly, whispering, and closing car doors gently, I noticed something I hadn’t seen the night before. Lined up on the seat of the bench of the picnic table were several brightly colored school backpacks, each with a water bottle that obviously held their gear for this family vacation. I couldn’t help but smile, and the teacher in me kicked into high gear. These packs looked new, but where, I wondered, would they be in a few short weeks? What would they be filled with then?

I hoped those kids would be toting those same bags off to school with new pencils and clean-slate notebooks. But I also hoped somewhere in the bottoms would be some campground sand and lodge pole pine needles. More importantly, I hope they will be filled with memories of their great family vacation. And, I regret that I never thought to do the same with my own boys, now grown men with children of their own. How wonderful it would have been to break-in their back-to-school backpacks with an adventure to close out the summer. Some of those years were memorable travels, others staycations due to time and budget constraints, but each would have afforded the opportunity to imprint some summer mementos on back-to-school gear. Perhaps it is not too late to do this with my grandkids – the fourth begins her 4K experience this year and the eldest starts high school.

Paradoxically, we had our own ritual, but it was more about discarding the old rather than packing in the new. I bought all their new socks and underwear at the back-to school sales (They get earlier every year don’t they?).When we packed for our vacation, I took the grayest, loosest elastic garments they had. We left them behind at every hotel or campground garbage can, and the kids took particular delight in letting go of the old socks and the old year. Bonus: I had much less laundry on our return. One of my last vacation preparations was to stock the freshly washed new socks in their drawers to welcome them home. The new start to school began then, and we amassed the supplies and new clothes needed for the coming year. After nearly 35 years in the classroom, this will be the last year, and I have vowed to use up what I have accumulated over the years. I bought nothing but new dry erase markers, a planner, and boxes of Kleenex to begin my last year. Because I am a borderline hoarder, I have plenty of backstock to carry me through the year, regardless of how tempting 19 cent spiral notebooks might be. The ritual is different, and yet the same, a sad goodbye to the joys of summer and a welcome jump into the new year. Just maybe, this year, those two parts of life fit more closely together.

September should remind us that it is not just what we take away from school that is important. It is also what we bring to it. It’s not just the erasers and crayons or the new graphing calculator. It’s not just the new shoes and haircuts and first day of school photos. It’s the memories, the world view, the positive impacts of travel and self study, the support of a loving family that fill in the gaps that school alone cannot. It’s what helps kids find their niche, and then helps them learn how to fill it. It helps them set goals that are personal and directly tied to what makes them curious, happy, and ultimately of service to the world.

Loyal readers, this will also be my last year of blog posts on a regular basis. My husband and I are taking what we call the grand adventure next year. I’ll retire from my school district in June after 15 wonderful years here with people I love. But there is a bigger world out there to see and experience that is not always compatible with a school calendar. Before my arthritic joints are too stiff to take me where I want to go, we will see the country in a travel trailer, likely for a full year. We are selling our Wisconsin home and all those possessions we do not feel to be essential and hitting the road. Phone service and internet access will be spotty, so posting seems a tough commitment to keep. But I promise to send something in when I find a topic, observation, or heartbreak that needs sharing. I had the honor of meeting poet and education activist Tyler Mali in July, and he reports in his book, What Teachers Make, “What I do know is that since leaving the classroom, I’ve never stopped teaching. Everything I do is a kind of lesson, even if I am the only person who learns it.” I intend to be a big learner. Throughout the school year to come, I have chosen to write around a theme for the first time. Inspired by the chorus of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, I’ll write about those wonderful things that I do know that I have, before they are gone. Next year’s pack up will be enormous; this year’s is just as important, though smaller in scale.

So line up those backpacks, fill them with the tools for an end of summer adventure, and I’ll meet you at the school door for one last September.


Top 5 Reasons to Enjoy the New School Year

top-5By Matthew Olinski — I don’t often make “top 5” lists, but I’ve been mulling these ideas over for the past several days.

The truth is, summer is officially over… and the days are bustling, rather than relaxing. But, I’m actually looking forward to getting back into the classroom.


Well, I can think of at least five great reasons to be happy to be going back to school:

 5) Football season is here.  I really enjoy high school football. I was on a high school team for 3 years, although the 3rd year my friend and I were more of the tackling dummies . . . I do officiate high school football through the WIAA.  It is a great way to keep active.  There is a lot of school spirit involved in high school football, from the team itself, to the cheerleaders and the band playing at half time.  My alma mater made it, while I was still in school, to the playoffs several times. Since then, they have taken home the state title.  The school I’m currently at also has a competitive team.  I don’t want to short change the other sports, because they also need support, but the Friday night lights has a strong tradition.

4) The paychecks start rolling in again. This is obviously not the only reason to be back at school, but near the end of August, after the summer pay is stretching mighty thin… I admit – this one is a little weak.

3) I am able to catch up with co-workers who I haven’t seen for a few weeks.  I think teachers, being a group that is naturally sociable as it is, for a closer bond with some of their co-workers. There is a chance to share what happened over the summer break.  You find out who got married, who is engaged, and who might be expecting a child of their own in the future.

2) I’m able to blog for Marquette for yet another term.  I enjoy writing about my experience in the schools. It is a great way to make me think about what I have been doing and to share some of my insights with others.

1) The students.  There are so many reasons why the students make coming back to school an adventure.   There is an energy at the beginning of the school year.  People are excited to be in school. That energy keeps you young. It also ages you, make no mistake, but I have been in touch with the latest music, fashion, and slang for the last 13 years. I probably know these students better than some of their parents do.  Students are nervous, excited, happy, and sad.  Former students come by and say hi to you in the hallway.  New students look at their teachers with a bit of trepidation in what will be expected of them.  I have for several years now, had siblings of students that have since graduated. I always like to hear what their older siblings are up to once they have left the halls of the school.  It is always a nice way to start the school year out.

With every school year, there are challenges and there are opportunities.  I look at the 5 opportunities above as a great way and a great reason to start out a new school year.

Welcome Back to School

download (1)By Matthew Olinski — Where did the summer go?

I wrote about that mid-way through June, as I lamented the upcoming schedule of summer festivals, and then the State Fair signaling the end of summer.  Well, as many of you know by already attending your beginning of the year in services – summer is officially over for teachers in Wisconsin.

There is some trepidation in this fact, and some excitement.  It is always a chance to start the school year fresh. We have a chance to reach out to a new group of students with a renewed focus and energy.

The questions is: Are you ready for the school year to start?

Ready or not – it is here.  I’m sure everyone has their back to school routine. For instance, I’ve already got my clothes picked out for the first day of classes. There is a commercial I always think of that states: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. So I will be standing outside my door smiling at students as they walk into the high school and since I have several freshman level classes – it will be for the first time.  They’ll be nervous.

Some things to consider:

  • What routines do you have for the start of the year?
  • Do you have your clothes picked out for the first day of classes?
  • Do you have a mentor if you’re a new teacher?
  • Do you know the routines of the school?  There is a climate that is a part of each school.  They take on their own personas.
  • Do you know how to not become part of a negative school climate?
  • Most importantly: Do you have your bulletin board ready to go?

As the last couple of days wind down, take a moment to breathe.  Whether you are student teaching for the first time, starting a new job for the first time, or coming back for your 13th year (I can hardly believe that myself…)  the first day of school is sure to be filled with its own challenges and experiences.

Good luck to everyone in the new school year.  Keep focused on why you entered the education field in the first place, and make an impression on those students.

Words of Wisdom from a Formerly “New Teacher”

NewTeacherTheme-450x337By Joel O’Brien –– Last week, I had the opportunity to take a one week vacation back to Iowa and reunite with old friends and teaching colleagues.

When trying to contact former teaching colleagues, I found myself surprised at the amount of time it took them to respond until I received a text a few hours later saying, “In-service started today.” While school does not begin until after Labor Day for most Wisconsin schools, hearing these words took me back to my first days as a secondary social studies teacher, and stepping into my empty, freshly painted classroom for the first time.

Looking beyond the nostalgia, I began to remember the excitement and nervousness that I simultaneously experienced during the one week that I had to prepare my classroom for the first day of school. While my situation was a bit unique in that I was hired during the second day of teacher in-service, here a five pieces of advice that can benefit all new teachers.

1)      Introduce yourself to new colleagues- While this process may seem intimidating at first, it can go a long ways when it comes to learning about the new environment, rules, procedures, etc.  Additionally, colleagues within your department can be great resources when it comes to sharing teaching materials and advice. While some may be more open to sharing than others, it is important to remember that all faculty members were “new teachers” at some point in time.

2)      Ask questions- Do not be afraid to ask for clarification, if there is a piece of information or procedure that you do not understand, make sure to ask.  Do not let pride get in the way, asking questions is a great way to be proactive and learn from colleagues while developing as a new professional.

3)      Befriend support staff- As a new teacher, the secretary, custodian, and print shop staff can be the most important people to know in the building. Things are often times quite unpredictable in a school setting and when you get in a pinch, these individuals can help you out. Whether it is a student getting sick or running a couple copies short, never underestimate the value and importance of these individuals.

4)      Stay organized- While the first year can be quite chaotic, it is crucial to establish an effective filing system. While extra time can be hard to come by at the beginning of the year, it will be time well spent during year two when you are able to find materials from the previous year and build upon them rather than start from scratch.

5)      Know your limits and find time for self-care- Like many others, I found myself wanting to do everything possible such as coaching and volunteering within the district. While I enjoyed coaching, I did not take into account the amount of time that it would take. For instance, on some game days the bus would leave right after school and not return until 11PM. When I had to be at school before 7AM the next morning and correct assignments somewhere in between, it did not leave much time for sleep. With the help of much needed caffeine, the work eventually got done, but it made for some unnecessary short nights and long days.  The next year, I found it to be much easier, but if I could rewind the clock I would have taken the first year to get adjusted to my new role as a teacher before taking on additional responsibilities.

Hopefully his advice comes in handy, as you begin your first year as a full-time teacher.  If you are still job searching and interviewing for positions, do not give up as last-minute positions often times become open due to unique circumstances… I know from experience!

What is a Marquette Educator?

Follow us on Twitter